Foreign and Commonwealth Office and predecessors: Political and Other Departments: General Correspondence before 1906, Great Britain and General
Before 1906, when the Foreign Office's registry procedure was reorganised, the general correspondence passed to the Library when it was two years old and was there arranged for binding in a series of country series. A residue of material not relating to any one country and therefore not assignable to a specific country series makes up this series. With the change over to departmental series of subject files in 1906 the need for this series came to an end and it contains no records of a later date than 1905 except a collection of printed Instructions, etc., to consuls and six continuing series of formal records of the Treaty and Royal Letter Department.
The Great Britain and General series includes some volumes of correspondence of a miscellaneous nature, but the majority are "cases": that is collections of papers on particular subjects, often covering several years, which have been retained in this form instead of being separated into their individual places within the various annual series of drafts, despatches, etc.
Arranged by subject as follows:
Miscellaneous correspondence (mainly domestic)
- (i) Government Departments, 1745-1806. This is mainly correspondence received by the Foreign Office.
- (ii) Circulars, 1777-1905. These are drafts and copies of circulars in chronological order. From 1812 there are separate series of circulars to British ministers and consuls abroad and to foreign ministers in London.
- (iii) Domestic various, 1773-1905. This is the domestic various correspondence which could not be assigned to any specific country series. It is in chronological order (mainly in annual volumes) in separate correspondence series: Diplomatic, Consular (from 1813), Commercial (1865-1866 and from 1872), Sanitary (1880-1882), Treaty (from 1883) and Africa (1893-1898).
Cases: These cover a wide range of subjects. Some relate to subjects of continuing interest over many years (often in series of several volumes); other deal with specific events or subjects of more short-lived interest; a considerable number are collections of answers to requests for information on a particular subject made of British ministers and consuls abroad for the benefit of Royal Commissions, Parliamentary Committees, other government departments, etc. They come from all departments of the Foreign Office except the Chief Clerk's and Slave Trade and African Departments.
- (i) General. This includes cases of the various political departments, cases dealing with the organisation and finance of the Foreign Office and Diplomatic Service and cases which cannot be associated with any particular department.
- (ii) Commercial. Included under this heading are several cases relating to commercial and sanitary matters created when the Department did not exist or when the subjects concerned were dealt with in other departments.
- (iii) Consular. Subjects include the organisation and finance of the Consular Services, responsibilities exercised by consuls on behalf of the Board of Trade under the Merchant Shipping Acts, consular marriages (Certain records of embassy and legation marriages which appear to have come from the Chief Clerk's Department are also included with these.) and the relief of distressed British subjects. Cases composed of consuls' 'Commercial' and 'Treaty' correspondence for the period when there were no such separate correspondence series, will be found under the appropriate departmental heading.
- (iv) Legal. A series of Law Officers' Reports, 1764-1876, a collection of papers of Sir Francis Reilly, Q.C., a parliamentary draughtsman consulted frequently by the Foreign Office, and a miscellaneous collection of cases on legal matters which cannot be assigned to the Library or Treaty Department. The Law Officers' Reports were originally bound separately in their proper places in the country series of General Correspondence before 1906, but were removed and made up in their present form in 1909 so that they could be withheld when other Foreign Office records became open to 1837. They themselves became open to public inspection in 1925.
- (v) Library. The records of the Library down to 1905, being arranged by subjects and not countries, are almost all included in this series and listed here under this heading.
- (vi) Treaty. The Department's general cases and certain formal records, each going back before 1883. Some of the series of records involved were not always dealt with in the Treaty Department but are included under this heading for convenience.
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